China can eventually start reopening cinemas

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 17, 2020
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Taopiaopiao, a major online ticketing platform, released a set of posters to celebrate the reopening of Chinese cinemas. [Images courtesy of Taopiaopiao]

Filmmakers, theater staff and movie fans on Thursday tearfully welcomed the best news in six months that China will reopen its film market, the world's second largest, on July 20.

Cinemas in China can reopen from that date in areas deemed as having a low risk of a fresh outbreak of COVID-19, the China Film Administration said in a notice posted on its website.

The reopening will have to be an orderly process subject to effective implementation of prevention and control measures, the administration added. Cinemas in high- and medium-risk areas will remain shut for now.

If any low-risk areas encounter an emergency that means their status is adjusted to high- or medium-risk, cinemas in these areas will have to be closed again in timely fashion according to local government's requirements, while strictly implementing methods and regulations of pandemic prevention and control.

Along with the notice, the administration also distributed a guideline on the sector's work resumption. It contains many special and specific instructions such as twice-a-day disinfection spraying of their lobbies, screening rooms, restrooms, corridors and aisles, vending machines and public seats wiped with disinfectant five times a day, and so on. Armrests, 3D classes and other such frequently-touched items should be disinfected after each use. 

Advertisements and promotional materials about pandemic prevention and control should also be implemented on LED screen displays, pre-screening display and printed on billboards and flyers.

The guideline also stipulates that the public can only buy movie tickets from online platform through real-name registered online reservations and sit separately in the theater, while both staff and audience should wear masks all the time. At most, 30% of the seats in a theater can be sold for each screening. Moviegoers who are strangers to each other should keep a distance of at least one meter. Those who do not wear masks or with a body temperature above 37.3 degrees Celsius will not be admitted into the theaters.

The overall number of screenings per venue should be held at half the previous normal daily level. No snacks and beverages are allowed to be sold or consumed on the premises. 

No film should be screened for more than two hours, which could mean the films whose running time is more than this length will not be screened at this time, or, filmmakers and producers can edit them down to the required limit.

Previous reports suggested China Film Co. and many film companies, even foreign giants such as Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros., have already selected a batch of films for re-release after the epidemic subsides, including "The Mermaid," "Wolf Warriors 2," "The Wandering Earth" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

Media reports also mentioned the "Avengers" movies, "Coco," the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and beloved older titles "Avatar," "Interstellar" and "Inception" are on the potential list for re-release, which could minimize financial risk and warm up the freezing-cold market. 

Relatively new films include several Oscar-winning or -nominated movies, such as "Little Women," "1917," "Jojo Rabbit" and "Marriage Story," as well as a few commercial tent poles, like "Sonic the Hedgehog" and "Bad Boys for Life."

Film executive Fu Ruoqing also promised that China Film Co. and Huaxia Film will release or re-release 30 to 50 films from their archives in the near future to help cinemas greatly affected by the epidemic to resume operations. 

Which films will actually be shown in cinemas in July remains to be seen given the two-hour screening limit, but fans currently have high anticipation and are hotly discussing the prospects online.

The China Film Administration asked cinemas to place the safety at the first priority in terms of the pandemic prevention when reopening. Local film authorities should apply for reopening permits from local governments.

Once each region's film authorities has received the local communist party committee and government's approval for their plans, they should discuss them with the local center for disease control and prevention regarding how to push forward orderly business resumption. Emergency plans must be prepared, and each region should report their overall reopening plans to the China Film Administration. 

China shut down all the cinemas on Jan. 23 for fear of cluster infections in confined venues due to the COVID-19 outbreak. China's film industry has since fallen silent and been struggling in a long winter, while thousands of movie companies and cinemas went bankrupt and closed down forever. 

Although Chinese movie theaters have in principle been allowed to reopen since May, none have done so, and the China Film Administration didn't give green light and set out a timetable until now. Industry professionals had publicly appealed for reopening several times on the grounds of survival, citing that most restaurants, shopping malls and even clubs have been open for months with a similar confined environment.

It is not known if Beijing cinemas could reopen on July 20 as it suffered blow from a fresh outbreak of the virus at Xinfadi food market in early June. 

Meanwhile, news reports are circulating that the delayed 23rd Shanghai International Film Festival will eventually open on July 25. 

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